News / USA

Experts Assess Winners And Losers in US Debt Debate

House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 1, 2011
House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 1, 2011

In U.S. politics, Washington is in recovery mode after a bruising fight over raising the national debt limit.  President Barack Obama signed a compromise measure into law Tuesday that allows the U.S. government to borrow more money to meet its financial obligations in exchange for Republican demands for significant cuts in government spending.  Both sides are breathing easier after averting a debt default, but, another battle over the size of the central government is just months away.

The political debate over the debt limit transfixed the capital for weeks and when the dust cleared most political analysts agreed that Republican demands to begin dramatic cuts to government spending had shifted the political center of gravity in Washington.

Republicans believe they are on the upswing after demanding steep cuts as the price for raising the debt ceiling.  Many Democrats are discouraged, feeling they gave up too much in the way of cuts, and disappointed that the president did not fight harder in the negotiations.

The debt debate was closely watched by the U.S. public and by many others around the world. What they saw was often a messy demonstration of American democracy in action.

“Well, I think it is embarrassing in terms of our world image," said Rhodes Cook, a Washington-based political analyst with years of experience in covering policy debates. "But it is the way we our government is run these days, particularly over the last 15 or 20 years. There has been, for better or worse, more of this high-stakes gambling attitude between the parties and an inability to get along as well as the members did in the past.”

On the other hand, difficult issues are not easily solved by a Congress that represents the desires of a large, complicated democracy, says former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma.

“We are a democracy of 300 million people, very diverse, and that is the way important, major decisions have to be made, by fighting it out," said Edwards. "In the end it worked.  It didn’t happen overnight but it happened in time and before any kind of a default took place.”

Republicans felt emboldened after last year’s congressional elections in which they won a majority in the House of Representatives and made gains in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Analyst Rhodes Cook says new conservative members of Congress backed by the Tea Party movement used the debt limit issue to force a debate on the broader question of budget cuts and shrinking the size of the central government.

“I think we are finally, for the first time maybe in a generation or so, really getting into the nub of the basic debate that should be going on in this country over what kind of government do we want," he said.

After signing the debt compromise into law, President Obama quickly pivoted to the issues of creating jobs and growing the U.S. economy, both of which will be at the top of voter concerns heading into next year’s presidential election.

“We’ve got to do everything in our power to grow this economy and put America back to work," said President Obama. "That is what I intend to do and I’m looking forward to working with Congress to make it happen.”

Rhodes Cook says Mr. Obama had a lot at stake politically in the debt debate, mindful that a government default could have wreaked havoc with the U.S. economy and further weakened his re-election hopes next year.

“I don’t know if he strengthened his hand," said Cook. "Let’s put it this way, I don’t think he weakened his hand. I think a [debt) default would have really looked bad for him in particular as the national leader, so that was avoided.”

But former congressman Mickey Edwards says neither side gained a great advantage as a result of the drawn out, polarizing debt limit debate.

“Politically though, it’s amazing," he said. "Neither side won.  The poll numbers for both the Republicans and the Democrats, for both the Congress and the president all went down.  Everybody lost.  This was not a good time politically for anybody involved.”

Republicans are also looking ahead to the 2012 elections and fully intend to hold the president accountable for the state of the domestic economy.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was a key player in the debt limit compromise eventually approved by Congress.

“Things have actually gotten worse since the president came to office and we need to move in a different direction," said McConnell.

The next fight over government spending will come later this year when a special bipartisan congressional panel will recommend further deficit reductions, which is expected to restart the partisan battle all over again.

Democrats are already insisting that tax increases be part of that panel’s discussion, a view that Republicans say they will fiercely resist.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs